Prosecutor: Ohio school shooter chose targets at random

CHARDON, Ohio -- Prosecutors said today at the first court appearance for the 17-year-old boy in custody in connection with the killing of three high school students and the wounding of two others that the suspect confessed to the shootings and said he chose his targets at random.

Prosecutor David Joyce told Geauga County Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Grendell that T.J. Lane confessed to bringing a .22-caliber pistol and a knife to the Chardon High School on Monday morning.

When authorities arrived in the high school's cafeteria they found three students unconscious and bleeding from the head. Another in a classroom suffered a gunshot wound to the neck.

T.J., a tall, thin boy wearing a tan shirt and black pants, sat quietly in the courtroom, answering the judge's questions with quick responses of "Yes, sir."

Prosecutors have not yet filed any charges against T.J. in the case. They have until 4:45 p.m. Thursday to do so in order to keep him in custody.

Mr. Joyce said he will attempt to try T.J. as an adult on three counts of aggravated murder.

"This is not about bullying," he said. "This is not about drugs."

He added that T.J. has mental issues but did not elaborate.

Police released no further details and few more are expected after Judge Grendell issued a gag order.

Demetrius Hewlin, one of the students wounded Monday at Chardon High School, died this morning at a Cleveland Hospital, the third student to succumb to his gunshot wounds.

Demetrius' family issued the following statement:

"We are very saddened by the loss of our son and others in our Chardon community. Demetrius was a happy young man who loved life and his family and friends. We will miss him very much but we are proud that he will be able to help others through organ donation.

"We ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time."

Demetrius' death followed by a few hours the death of Russell King Jr., 17. He and Demetrius both died at the MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, according to the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office.

Another student, Daniel Parmertor, 16, died Monday in the medical center.

T.J. appeared in juvenile court this afternoon. His attorney declined through an office worker to answer questions before the proceeding.

This morning, while local students filtered in and out of the Chardon Middle School for counseling and sold car decals to raise money for the families of the five shooting victims, local police and sheriff's officials reflected on their own experiences at the high school, which has about 1,100 students and is about 30 minutes east of Cleveland.

"The most eerie feeling in the world was walking down the halls yesterday, running them," said Geauga County Sheriff Dan McClelland, who said he attended Chardon High School and met his wife there. "While we still look for the why and what and who, we now deal with a community looking to heal."

Sheriff McClelland said his 5-year-old grandson asked last night to call his niece, who is a student at Chardon High School. "'He asked her, 'Are you OK?' She said 'yes' and started to cry. We have a county asking, 'Are you ok?'"

Two other students began the day in the hospital.

Joy Rickers, 18, was released from Hillcrest Hospital, not far from the school, Sheriff McClelland said this afternoon. Nick Walczak, 17, was listed in serious condition at Hillcrest this morning.

School administrators organized a vigil for tonight. School district staff will return to their buildings tomorrow and may receive counseling. Students and their parents are invited to return to their schools on Thursday for counseling.

"Hug your kids. Kids hug your parents," said Chardon Superintendent Joe Bergant. "Talk to your children."

Liz Navratil: or 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. First Published February 28, 2012 12:45 PM


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